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“menstruate = The blood red day”

For those keeping track, you’re probably still on the edges of your seats in anticipation of Ayutthaya, Part 2. Well, get comfortable, because my busy ass is busy. Time consumption and promised posts aside, my blog would be bereft if left without irregular posts about my students. I’m a farang because I’m an ajarn, after all.

Earlier, I addressed how I felt about teaching university students. To use a vocabulary word from the third fourth of the semester, I was—and still am, I think—a little anxious about the whole bestowing-knowledge thing. If there’s one person who perpetually lives in a cloud of brain fart that stifles the nostrils of edification, it’s this guy.

Thankfully, a lot of my students have yet to catch a whiff. In fact, my English 2 academic class melted my heart last week when half of them cornered me after class and said, “Teacher, you teach English 3 and 4? We want you for all Englishes!” They persisted even after I assured them that I’m significantly harder as the levels progress. That, readers, was a good afternoon. (In fact, it was my birthday.)

English 2 has been the most revelatory of my classes. Their English proficiency is the lowest of all of my classes, so the insight they give me into how Thai students perceive and construe English has been invaluable. They also bust their asses for me—at least most of the time. As opposed to my conversation classes, which meet only once a week, I see my English 2 students three times a week, which has permitted me to watch both them and myself develop as the semester has progressed.

But enough sappy, I’m-a-rewarded-teacher stuff. It’s time for the meat of this post, which are, rather, memorable trimmings from my first semester here.

I think that idioms and expressions are a crucial aspect of any language; understanding the inner workings of the semiotic structures of anything is an invaluable procedure that any serious language user—native or not—should pursue with appropriate levels of rigor. Also, it’s just fun to explain ‘to kill a bottle’ and ‘to play the field’ to 19- and 20-year-old English-language learners.

To get some creative juices flowing, I had my students invent their own expressions in English after playing a Jeopardy-style game introducing the concept. I asked for an expression or idiom, its part of speech, an explanation of its usage(s), and a sample sentence. Below are five of the better ones (unedited), where ‘better’ means the spectrum of what ‘better’ means.

1) big face (adj.): it means to show off

ex: The old woman has a big face when she merits in the temple because there are so many people.

—Poor people cannot use it.

—Rich people can use it.

 

2) Milk spill = the chest of woman.

When you see another woman’s chest             example: when the women wear the jerkin [jersey/ tank top, I later learned] and they are not be careful enough then the other people will see their chest easily

I heard the boy beside me talk about her milk spill. that sit opposite me.

 

3) Beam without collumn [sic] (n.)

— Meaning. Beam and collumn is a thing that is need to come together. And it can’t missing each other. So beam without collumn is like. When you missing something that is very important.

Situation – when you go or do something. But you forgot a something which is very important.

Example – That fisherman look like Beam without column. He forgot a rod.

 

4) Pick a flower – take a leak.

During a driving, when a woman want a toilet but cannot find. She’ll go to the glass [grass] inside [beside?] the road for take a leak. Her act is like she is picking flowers.

Example – While I’m driving, I saw Malee’s picking flowers inside road.

 

5) menstruate = The blood red day

ex. The blood red day is coming then I feel upset.

This idiom should use with the women because only women will have the menstrual period and the menstruation is red and all women will get upset so then the women have a menstruation we called the blood red day as women menstruate.

This last expression stunned me, and in an absolutely great way. Before she handed it in, the student asked me if this was a good answer. I told her it was excellent. Fine, it’s not an idiom and probably only slightly a metaphorically grey expression, but fuck, who cares? I loved her candor, enthusiasm, and originality. Besides, for 3.75% percent of a grade—the assignment was to fulfill their Special Project grade—I’ll happily give her credit for her gusto, even if she did miss the various intricacies and shades that go into an idiom. Fucking whatever. Way to go, student.

Tonight is a dinner out and a very reluctant good-bye: one of the first people I met here—a vet who took was always ready with friendly guidance—is off to America before a jaunt in Australia, which itself is a prelude to India. She will, quite obviously, be goddamn missed.

Here's to you.

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Posted by on September 12, 2011 in ESL, Thailand

 

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Gallery

Camera Day 1: The Campus

I’ve been looking to do a picture day for some time now—probably since I arrived. Waking at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning to a picturesque sky and empty campus proves to be enough impetus to break out my dSLR and take a stroll. I am far from a photographer, but I like to pretend, so be patient. Below are some shots (and some pretentious, artsy, doctored versions) from Sunday morning.

King David Hall

The bell tower

More bell tower

Columns

I'll be damned if I know where door this leads.

These doorways are everywhere near my room.

Dorothy really effed stuff up with color, huh?

Workin' for the weekend.

I just discovered this thing today.

"There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

The path just ends.

Lion statue

Not so cowardly

I didn't stage any of this. I swear.

I have no idea what this is, but it's on the bridge that leads to class.

Angel

"And he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven . . ."

Shit got Biblical.

I wish I knew quotes from Revelations without Google's help.

There is still a lot more of campus to be seen, including a clandestine grotto and the one, the only, Cathedral of Learning. Maybe I can get out and around campus and take some shots of the surrounding area, but I know I’ll feel like a cock when I take photos of the residents. We’ll see.

On a personal note, happiest of Father’s Days to my dad. I wish I could be there with the old man, but the long-time professional videographer will have to be content with my amateur shots. See you soon, papi.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2011 in Disorientation

 

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Conspicuous flight; chance encounters.

Sunrise from my balcony.

Up at 5 a.m., my body’s time clock is still trying to calibrate itself and shake off the exhaustion of travel the morning after I arrived in Thailand.

The trip started off far too conspicuously: starting to pack around 10 p.m. on Friday and mentally preparing myself for my—at least as my mother and I recalled—2:45 p.m. flight on Saturday out of JFK in New York, I decided it’d be good to check my trip itinerary again; enough people had been asking, “How long is the flight?” I figured it’d be a good time to actually find out.

I was wrong about the flight time. My flight was at 8 a.m. on Saturday—not 2:45 p.m. There went my embattled night of sleep and leisurely packing routine. My family and I had to leave at 3:30 a.m. from Philadelphia, Pa. to be at JFK with enough time for me to feel comfortable about boarding an international flight on time.

Thanks to my brother, his girlfriend, and my mother, I got all of my stuff together for my contracted year-in-Thailand—which brings me to why I’m currently sitting on a college campus in Bang Na, Samut Prakan, Thailand.

About 90 days ago, I began to apply for teaching positions in Thailand. I was working at a local news station in Philadelphia writing for TV (bleck) and their Web site (yahoo!). It was a hell of an opportunity, but I wasn’t ready for it: aside from family, I had no reason to stay in Philly—hell, I actively did not want to stay. Oh, and did I mention I was living with my parents? Needless to say, I was getting a bit antsy. I was applying to jobs all over the country—probably 200 in eight months since I got my degree and started looking—and nothing was biting. After posting some frustration about jobs on Facebook around the end of March or April, a friend of mine who had been in Thailand for the last year told me to apply for jobs there.

So I applied for teaching jobs in Thailand. Thirty days later I had a job offer. Forty-five days later I landed in BKK airport.

The flight was a flight: long yet somehow atemporal, oscillatingly well- and under-serviced, and full of in-flight TV mixed with the short nap. In fact, the worst part was probably during my layover in Heathrow, where I got eggs on toast. The dish was awful; it looked and tasted like a scrambled egg sneezed itself onto two pieces of limp bread and covered itself in butter. I could have eaten it through a straw, bread included. I figured I could take refuge in whatever British Airways served on my flight to BKK.

And then passed the next 11 hours on a plane.

Bleary eyed but kind of giggly, a super friendly representative of the university met me at the entrance of the airport. We took a shuttle to the campus, where she took me to the front desk of my dorm room (big ups for subsidized housing five minutes from work). After filling out some paper work, the representative looked at me and said, “See you Saturday for the meeting,” and left. That was on Sunday.

View from my balcony

I think something along the lines of “Holy fucking shit-balls” ran through my mind as she walked out the door, and definitely became verbal when I closed the door to my room and stared at its white walls.

At least it has a hell of a view, huh? 

I unpacked for a bit, took a shower, and studied my Thai phrase book before I couldn’t ignore my screaming hunger. I made my way over the to mall—complete with restaurants, laundry services, a barber, and mini mart—which was still very empty since classes don’t start for another week. I took a lap downstairs and then upstairs, looking for a place to eat that advertised a negotiable mix of English and Thai.

Then jackpot: a trio of native English speakers (NESes) walking up the steps facing me.

“Hey guys, where’s a good place to eat here?” I asked.

“IndiThai. You new here?”

“Yea, about three hours old.”

This is how I met Zack, Bernardo, and Kit.

We ate and talked. Each of them had been here since at least October and knew the ropes, so they filled me in on life in Thailand while I gave them my general background. Thankfully, though, the dinner involved more bullshitting than formal get-to-know-yous, which was a relief after “See you Saturday.” There were tentative plans to go out in downtown Bangkok—my campus is 40 minutes outside downtown—but they fell through, which was fine with me and my fatigue. I ended up unpacking some more and checking out my Lonely Planet guide—all with some Thai game show(?) involving scuba diving—before popping a sleep aid I didn’t use on the plane around 10:15 p.m.

Seven hours later, I’m awake. I grabbed a cold shower and used the dorm’s Internet café for a second round of family e-mails before walking to the convenience store for some breakfast because it was, by then, only 7 a.m. and the mall still closed for another.

I walk in, give a presumably awful “Hello” in Thai, and am hit by an incontrovertible fact: I am in fucking Thailand. Sure, the inside looks like a standard mini mart, but that sure as shit isn’t English written on the food’s packaging. Don’t get me wrong, I was and still am very excited to be somewhere where my English skills won’t get me far, if anywhere, but the fact that English isn’t only spoken but also not written probably still hasn’t computed. Again, this

Microwave lunch? dinner? Breakfast.

is fine—fuck, I have no choice—and totally exciting, but still a bit mind bending.

I ended up with microwaveable Spicy Thai Basil Seafood Pasta and a chocolate soymilk to be enjoyed later. Pretty damn good, to be honest, even though my presumably awful “Thank you” in Thai was met with a confused nod of the head by the cashier.

Which brings me to here, in front of my computer, listening to Raphael Saadiq’s Instant Vintage, and typing my first entry for my blog before heading off the gym (a hopeful nonlinguistic refuge).

And, if nothing else, suddenly farang.

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Disorientation, Thailand

 

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